John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Thursday 26 July 2012) Torch relay

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Thursday 26 July 2012) Torch relay

The torch relay went through St Pancras station and into Euston Road, not far from Not Abdul’s Taste of Bombay. Roy wondered if the restaurant was still there and whether its name had changed to Taste of Mumbai, which he thought wouldn’t sound as good. A girl called Rachel took a turn with the torch, there was a Malaysia connection, she’d worked with orang-utans in Borneo. Comedian David Walliams ran next. “I’m a lady,” someone yelled. Ha-ha, Roy liked Little Britain, the cross-dressing, the tubby gay.

He confronted the living room once again. It was full of fragments, bits of history and hints of the infinite number of massive missing pieces that would never be found or written down. Roy didn’t understand why he wanted to fill the unfillable gaps. They were, after all, unfillable. He shoved everything into one place. He’d be systematic, start at the front, keep going, there would eventually be an end.

To calm himself, he again pored over the old photos of Don and Gwen, of maybe Don and maybe Gwen, and the assorted demobbed men and New Look women, reading their smiles as displays of relief at cheating death. They weren’t the ones who’d gone missing in action or been dragged from the rubble of bomb heaps that littered London from the Café de Paris to the East End – things Roy had learned about thanks to a recent, morbid interest in the war. The Germans had bombed Croydon airport first.

In the spare room Roy scanned three of the old photos and attached them to an email to Nerys, asking: “Any idea who these people are?” He did not send them to Brian. He thought for a moment and sent them to Lucy too. “Can you spot your grandparents?” he wrote.

He checked the online coverage of the torch relay’s progress. It said crowds were cramming London’s pavements as the flame passed from hand to hand: the hands of vicars, opera singers, disability campaigners, fundraiser record-breakers, NHS veterans, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, community campaigners, cancer survivors, billionaire steel magnates, Bruce Forsyth.

Roy dragged himself back downstairs, opened a previously untouched box and found clothes that he had worn as a small child: his old primary school tie and cap; a jumper with a steam train pattern knitted on the front (Gwen’s work); a sailor suit. There was more Crystal Palace stuff, not pennants and rosettes but a scrap book of cuttings and a ring binder full of earnest stats and graphs, mapping league position progress, leading scorers, goal averages, all compiled in his own inky hand. Percentages, probabilities, performance charts, he’d so loved all those things and, looking back, it seemed to explain so much.

All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE. Follow John Vane on Twitter.

On London strives to provide the best possible writing about the capital city. Become a supporter for £5 a month (or £50 a year) and receive an action-packed weekly newsletter and free entry to online events. Details here.

Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.